One day, I asked students at the school where I work, “What’s the name of our school?” They responded in chorus with the expected exuberance of 23 first graders, “OLA!”
“What does OLA stand for?”
This response wasn’t quite as resounding as the first, “Our Lady of the Assumption!” Their eyes shone bright with proud enthusiasm.
“On what date do we celebrate Our Lady of the Assumption?”
Blank stares… then
One clever set of eyes darted about for clues and found a hint on a plaque hanging on the brick facade near where we stood outdoors, on our way inside from recess. She confidently blurted out “1952,” the only numbers on the plaque (the year the school was founded). Other parroting voices trailed in echo.
From that day on, the first graders could recall August 15 as Our Lady’s Day of Assumption as readily as they recalled their own birthdays. Whenever they did, I felt an inner joy and a renewed connection to Our Lady.
In addition to the date, the children would eventually learn the Church’s teaching on the Assumption: “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 974).
Of Our Lady’s devotions and prayers, there are the Rosary, seven sorrows of Our Lady, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, etc. Similar to their attractions to certain of her apparitions, many Marian devotees are partial to specific feast days. Often, one chooses a particular devotion because of an experience where Jesus opens a door, and his mother appears from behind it. That was the case for me and my devotion to Our Lady of the Assumption.
A few years ago, I felt a nudge from God that it was time to seek employment outside the home after a hiatus to raise my children. To take the guesswork out of where God was calling me, I prayed the Lord would open one and only one door for my employment. Eventually one opportunity arose and the Blessed Mother seemed to confirm it in a dream.
In the beginning of employment at OLA, the name of where I worked held no significance for me. But when I had a hard time adjusting to my job, I found solace when my eyes landed on the sign that announced Our Lady of the Assumption, as I drove into the parking lot to start the day. In solid block letters announcing her title, I found consolation on difficult days and the comfort in knowing she had chosen this place for me.
There was a time, just after I converted to the Catholic faith as an adult, I didn’t know a thing about the Blessed Mother. After some buds of our relationship began to blossom, I attempted to keep Marian dates straight to honor her. Once, I mixed up the dates of the Immaculate Conception — December 8 — and Assumption — August 15 — by mistakenly combining the two days into one and confidently marking December 15 on my calendar as an important feast day.
While my family teases me for my inability to recall anything verbatim, not even a single lyric of a beloved song, I somehow memorized all the mysteries of the Rosary practically overnight. Through the Rosary, and the maternal mentors God has placed in my life, Our Lady weaves threads of her care. From guiding me to a counselor during the rocky times of marriage to selecting our children’s high school – titled after another of Mother Mary’s namesakes – her gentle presence in my life became palpable.
Last year, on August 15, as I attended the Solemnity of the Assumption Mass at the church and school that both bear her name, I marveled at how a last minute schedule change had brought me to this landmark Mass. Mother Mary indeed wanted me there to reassure me of her call for me to this place of employment.
I randomly recalled that when my children were in elementary school, I would attend this Mass at their school every year to pour out all my hopes for the new school year to Our Lady. One year, after the August 15 Mass, my then-13-year-old daughter had announced that she was going to teach religious education classes. I immediately knew this was a grace from Our Lady. The fruit of Mother Mary’s intercession continued as my daughter taught catechism and Vacation Bible school classes the following years; she went on to obtain a college minor in teaching, and took a gap year after graduation to volunteer as a teacher. Our Lady of the Assumption’s intercession continues to bear great fruit in my family’s lives.
My new place of employment was her nod to me as my mother, and yet another thread confirming she claimed me as her own. At the place that bears her name, this mother of all mothers is schooling me in true discipleship. Lesson plans in love, sacrifice, and humility often shine a mirror on warts I never saw before; some days the virtues she’s trying to instill in me scratch against my pride and leave scrapes that feel like cuts. But when I look at my paycheck, I’m reminded that of all the places to work, I labor for Our Lady, and there is no one kinder and gentler to tutor me in the virtues.
One chooses a saint as his/her own because of an experience of his/her intercession. It’s a mystical, reciprocal companionship. A devotion to Our Lady’s feast day is similar. Of her feast days, I have to say Our Lady of the Assumption, where she schools me in lessons in love, is my favorite. Wherever I go, whenever I see a church or school named Our Lady’s Assumption. I feel the warmth of a mother’s arms; I’ll always honor her on this and other special occasions.
Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us!